Heart of the Matter


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2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Twenty months ago, Andrew Parr was lying in a bed at St. Mikes Hospital in Toronto.
The blood clot that hurtled out of his lungs, through his heart and lodged in his brain did more than threaten his dream of some day playing the PGA Tour.
A stroke took away his speech and the feeling on the entire right side of his body. Doctors couldnt tell him what his future held or whether he would recover completely.
Ontario native Andrew Parr plays a shot at the 2008 Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club. (Getty Images)
Thats what makes this 26-year-old Canadians fast start in his first U.S. Open Thursday feel so triumphant no matter how this rain-soaked championship ends.
When Parr holed a 4-foot birdie with his first putt, his two brothers howled from their spot aside the No. 1 green at Bethpage Black.
When they reached the second green and saw Andrews name on the leaderboard perched above Tiger Woods name, they paused to revel in the moment.
It was surreal, Bryan Parr, 20, said. Knowing what he had overcome, we were proud.
Andrew didnt surprise his family and friends overcoming the hard rain and wind to make birdie right out of the gate in the most difficult of major championship conditions. Theyve watched him overcome so much more.
Anyone who knows Andrew knows hes destined for success, its just a matter of time, said Tim Nash, 26, Andrews stepbrother. Hes so smart and so driven.
The first day of the U.S. Open ended with Parr tied with four other players for the lead at 1 under. Yeah, he only played three holes in a rain-suspended round where nobody completed more than 11 holes, but Parr said the great lesson in his recovery from a stroke is to enjoy lifes journey.
Raised in London, Ontario, Parr seemed born for a career in golf. With a name like that, did he have any choice? They didnt think so at Texas A&M, where he won All-American status his senior season. A two-time Ontario Amateur champ, he was expected to excel when he hit the Canadian Tour, but his career path careened off course one scary day in Toronto.
Out to see a girlfriend in October of 2007, he was at the elevator at her apartment when he was overcome with an awful feeling. His right foot felt funny, suddenly heavy. Then a strange sensation shot up the entire right side of his body. He didnt know what was happening.
I couldnt comprehend what people were saying, he said. I couldnt communicate. I couldnt say anything.
Parrs girlfriend took him to a hospital a block away. He was paralyzed on his right side when he got there.
Doctors determined Parr had a stroke. They discovered Parr was born with a hole in his heart, and it caused a blood clot in his lungs, which led to the stroke.
For a week, Parr underwent tests, opting to undergo blood thinning treatments instead of a surgical procedure.
Everyone was freaking out, Parr said. My parents were freaking out. I didnt know if I would ever play golf again. Doctors said they didnt know how I was going to recover.
Parrs agent, Todd Ciuba of SFX Golf, did some investigating and called the therapist who helped New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi recover from his stroke. With the medication and rehabilitation, Parr began regaining feeling and strength. Within a week, he was out of the hospital.
The first thing I did was pick up a golf club, Parr said.
At 6-foot-4, Parr has a long swing. He headed out to the London Hunt Club, his home course, to see what was left of it.
It was a rainy day, like today, he said from the Bethpage Black clubhouse after play was suspended Thursday. It was pretty scary, because it didnt feel normal. I couldnt even bounce a ball on my club, which any guy who has played golf for any amount of time can do, so I was a little unsure.
Parr made some encouraging swings.
It felt weird, but I was hitting the ball straight, he said. I was thinking it was awesome.
There was purpose in those swings. Canadian Tour Qualifying School was scheduled a month after his stroke. He got up off his hospital bed intending to play, and he did.
That was probably the life-saver, Parr said. It gave me the will to rehab as fast as possible.
Parrs first round of competition after his stroke was the first round of Q-School. He shot 72 and went on to win Canadian Tour playing privileges. He had struggled on the Tour in 07, but he would rebound in 08 to share the Tours Most Improved Canadian Award. He qualified for the U.S. Open in the sectional qualifier in Roslyn, Wash.
I just thought if I could recover from this, I could recover from anything, Parr said.
Parr says the stroke changed him in a profound way. He said he saw his life too singularly focused on the future and on his career. He resolved to change that.
I took a lot of things for granted, my relationships, Parr said. It was always about, `How am I going to get better? How am I going to be the best golfer? I play golf every day now for fun. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the good things and the bad things, and Im not too worried about where Im going. Im just going to enjoy the ride.
Just making the U.S. Open is a thrill ride.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 2009 U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage -2009 U.S. Open
  • Bethpage Black Ballpark